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Greeks among Students at Lehigh University Facing Choices due to Pandemic

BETHLEHEM, PA – Lehigh University sent out an email outlining options for international students on April 27 from vice president and vice provost for International Affairs Cheryl Matherly and Dan Warner, vice provost for Admissions and Financial Aid, noting that the university “recognized that due to travel restrictions and delays in securing visas, some international students may not be able to return to campus in the fall even if it reopens,” The Brown and White (TBW), the school’s newspaper, reported on June 10. Among those international students are two members of the class of 2022, Eleni Karyofylli and Thanos Kougionis, both from Thessaloniki, Greece, TBW reported.

The first of the three options for international students to consider is the “Lehigh in Residence” program, giving “international students the opportunity to complete their first semester of pre-approved courses at a partner institution within their home country,” TBW reported, adding that “the second option is remote learning in which Lehigh students will complete fall semester classes from home.”

“Although this is not the university’s ‘preferred choice,’ it is offering this option for international students who may not have a partner institution in their home country and do not want to defer admission,” TBW reported, adding that the third option “would be to defer admission until the spring semester or until the fall 2021 semester.”

Among the international students “who were unable to return home and have remained on campus over the summer with Lehigh’s support,” Eleni Karyofylli and Thanos Kougionis,“are grateful to Lehigh for providing them housing as they have not been able to return home and likely won’t be able to in the near future due to the pandemic,” TBW reported.

Karyofylli told TBW that “I’m scared we’ll have to do online school again. Having classes online in my opinion wasn’t as effective on the academic side as in-person school would be. I understand it was the only option at the time, but I don’t think I learned as much as I would have otherwise.”

Kougionis “feels bad for the incoming freshmen who may not be able to experience their first year on Lehigh’s campus and believes many may choose to take a gap year as opposed to potentially paying Lehigh’s full tuition for online classes,” TBW reported.

Emails from Lehigh in May offered emergency funding to students, TBW reported, adding that Kougionis “applied for two grants through the Office of Financial Aid for summer housing and food expenses” and “his requests were approved within two days.”

While Lehigh announced on June 1 that it has “a $40 million budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year,” the university did receive close to $2 million in April from the CARES Act, and “the Office of Financial Aid is currently processing its first round of checks, a total of approximately $1.1 million, for over 700 students who have applied for grants, according to Jennifer Mertz, the director of Financial Aid,” TBW reported.

As of June 10, “the Office of Financial Aid has allocated $37,000 to international students with the university’s resources to support them during the pandemic,” TBW reported.

“We are always cognizant of the overall university budget when awarding financial aid to students, however, we are still planning to meet the needs of our students, especially during this difficult time,” Mertz told TBW.

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